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Labor Law> Labor Standards>Disability Benefits

TOMAS P. ATIENZA
vs
OROPHIL SHIPPING INTERNATIONAL CO. INC ET AL
G.R. Nos. 191049, August 7 2017
(First Division)

DOCTRINE: The seafarer effectively discharges his own burden of proving compliance with the first three
conditions of compensability under Section 32-A of the 2000 POEA-SEC, i.e., that (1) the seafarer's work
must involve the risks described herein; (2) the disease was contracted as a result of the seafarer's
exposure to the described risks; and (3) the disease was contracted within a period of exposure and
under such other factors necessary to contract it.

FACTS: In the course of his employment contract, petitioner complained of severe headaches, nausea,
and double vision which the foreign port doctors diagnosed to be right cavernous sinus inflammation or
Tolosa Hunt Syndrome (THS). As a result, petitioner was repatriated on February 4, 2005 and referred to
a company-designated physician, Doctor Nicomedes G. Cruz (Dr. Cruz), who confirmed the findings and
advised him to continue the medication prescribed by the foreign doctors. On June 28, 2005, Dr. Cruz
issued a certification declaring petitioner fit to resume work. Dissatisfied, petitioner consulted an
independent physician, Dr. Paul Matthew D. Pasco (Dr. Pasco), who, on the other hand, assessed his
illness as a Grade IV disability and declared him unfit for sea duty.

ISSUE: Whether or not petitioner’s disability is compensable?

HELD: Yes

In the case at bar, petitioner was found by both the company-designated and independent physicians to
have THS during the term of his employment contract that caused his eventual repatriation on February
4, 2005. THS is a rare neurologic disorder characterized by severe headache and pain often preceding
weakness and painful paralysis of certain eye muscles. Its exact cause was unknown but the disease was
thought to be associated with inflammation of the area behind the eyes. A possible risk factor for THS is
a recent viral infection.

Considering further his constant exposure to different temperature and unpredictable weather conditions
that accompanied his work on board an ocean-going vessel, the likelihood to suffer a viral infection -a
possible risk factor -is not far from impossible, more so when no less than petitioner's independent
physician, Dr. Pasco, diagnosed him to be suffering from cavernous sinus.

In this case, the NLRC failed to account for the foregoing rules on seafarers' compensation and instead,
cavalierly dismissed petitioner's claim on the supposition that petitioner failed to show a reasonable
connection between his illness and his work as an Able Seaman, even if the records show otherwise.
More significantly, the NLRC did not account for the employer's failure to comply with the 120 day-rule, by
virtue of which the law conclusively presumes the seafarer's disability to be total and permanent. Thus, for
these reasons, the Court finds that the NLRC's ruling is tainted with grave abuse of discretion and hence,
should have been corrected by the CA through certiorari. Accordingly, the CA's ruling must be reversed
and set aside.